Civilization V

Civilization V is different. Even from pressing play now on the Steam games list, you see something new. The game now supports DirectX 10 and 11 graphical goodness. The opening movie is different: instead of some music and a walk through different era in CG animation, we instead get a short movie of an elderly leader and his next in line to inherit the kingdom. In almost all ways Civ V is different, except that it is still a Civilization game.

Starting out each game, you get a short paragraph telling you some background history of your chosen Civilization and leader. This short text is also nicely narrated and it’s actually happening as it is loading the game, so you are not wasting any time in reading this text blurb. Once loaded, we see a different yet familiar sight. The menus are all different, and so are all the UI. What stays the same is your starting units, a settler and a warrior.

Speaking of the menu system, much has changed from earlier games. Everything is very much streamlined and simplified. Instead of a whole different interface on the City screens, it’s just an overlay on top of your map with extra menus on the sides and top. Even the stats of the cities are streamlined. Much of the needed information is condensed into a small info bar up on the top. It all feels very intuitive to me, as most of time you are only going in that screen to build your next thing. On the right side of the menu are collapsible panels about your citizens, buildings and wonders. Certain buildings can also be worked on by citizens, like tiles are. On the left side are collapsible panels of what you can build: units, buildings, wonders, extras (like gold or science).

All of the UI and graphics have been totally revamped of course. They do this every year, but it feels extremely concise this time. The icons and UI elements feel a bit huge at times now actually, luckily there is an option to shrink it down.

Speaking to other leaders is not much different from previous versions, although I must say the CG models look superb this time. They speak what seems like the real language of their culture too, which is a nice touch (if I’m not wrong that is). The conversation choices are pretty explanatory and is pretty much what you get in the past iterations. There are some new options, however, such as the new Pact of Secrecy. You can form a secret alliance against another civilization, which does not actually make you declare war on them. When it comes time to call in that favor to attack the agreed upon target, you have the choice to tell the other civ that you need 10 turns to prepare for the attack, cancel it, or declare war immediately.

Another new addition is city-states. These act sort of like a mini-civ. They only have one city from what I can tell, though they do expand their borders. If you ally with them, they will help you out when you are in a war. You have limited choices about what you can do with them: give gold for influence (which can deplete with each turn), give them a unit (a secret way of supporting them if they get attacked, also gains influence), or declare war on them. Each also has different temperaments and tendencies. For example there is a militaristic city-state which you also have to option to tell them to stop producing units if you ally with them. When I talk about allying with them, there’s actually no dialog option to do so, you must gain enough influence for them to consider you an ally. Other than gold and unit giving, there are actually many ways of gaining influence. If they are attacked you can help them out. If they hate some other city-state, you can help wipe them out. If they are threatened by a barbarian tribe, you can help eradicate them. Sometimes they just want a certain resource or a road to your capital.

Resources are not much different from what I can tell. Much like iterations past, you can trade extra resources to other civs. They are needed for certain units also. City-states can give you their resources when you ally with them, and they continue to do so until your influence drops below that threshold.

There are still many more things to talk about this game, but this should give you a good overview of some big changes for the latest iteration of this epic game.

PubSubHubbub – instant blogging?

So for anyone that have used Friendfeed knows, they have this ultra-fast real-time stream. It’s quite cool and it works with feedburner too. Which I have set up as the RSS feed for this blog. So as a test I will post this and see if Friendfeed will do show it immediately.

Source: PubSubHubbub + WordPress + Feedburner + FriendFeed = Realtime Awesomeness

When I Started Gaming

After reading an article on bit-tech about how we first got hooked into gaming, I wanted to share my experience.

A Gameboy was probably where I first played a game. At the time I was probably playing Tetris or Super Mario Land. Then soon afterwards I got a Game Gear. I had one of those cartridges that contained more than one game. There was a Ninja Gaiden game, a Jet Fighter game, and other stuff I don’t remember anymore. While these were great games and I had fun playing them, I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer yet.

When I moved to the US from Hong Kong, I remember playing on an Apple Mac. I have since forgotten what system it was, but it had several games on those huge floppy discs, either an 8-inch or a 5.25-inch floppy. The most memorable game I played was actually a Winter Olympics game; the most memorable being this ski jump game.

Civilization was the next game I remember playing. My brother bought it one day, and I remember seeing it for the first time. I was so impressed with the graphics, even though by today’s standards it’s nothing. It only had icons, but I remember being really impressed.

The next phase was when my brother bought a new computer and I got his old one. I celebrated it by buying myself a game: NBA Live 96. I remember that my computer barely ran it fast enough! It was missing various players I believe, especially Michael Jordan (who didn’t appear till Live 2000).

The final phase that made me a gamer was the next game. I bought it on my birthday and it was The LucasArts Archives Vol. I, a collection of LucasArts games. Included were: Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Star Wars Screen Entertainment, and Star Wars: Rebel Assault (3 level demo). Also included was a LucasArts Super Sampler disc featuring: Full Throttle, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire, and Star Wars: TIE Fighter. It established in my mind what a great computer game was and I’ve never looked back since.

After that, I played various other computer games, and a few console games as well. I also read PC Gamer magazine to catch up on the latest games. By now I was a gamer, for I realized that it is such a great medium with all the experiences of the movies only with user interaction involved. That’s possibly why I like original games, I want to try out all the games that break the mold because we have so much to discover about what makes a game fun.

What follows are a few of my favorite games.

  • Monkey Island
  • Sam & Max: Hit the Road
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
  • Grim Fandango
  • No One Lives Forever (1 and 2)
  • Portal

That’s a short list of the most memorable, I’ve liked more but those are what I remember. Hopefully Spore will be on that list soon! I look forward to all the games I’ll come to love in the future.

reCAPTCHA: Stop Spam, Read Books

reCAPTCHA We’ve all seen CAPTCHA before on the net, those little distorted words used to confirm that we’re in fact human. reCAPTCHA takes this idea and adds the usefulness by making everyone read old books one word at a time. Intrigued? Here’s why it&#8217s being done and how it works:

In order for the internet to truly be the “information superhighway” several projects are currently actively digitizing text written before the digital age. Pages of text are scanned into the computer and a computer program using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR) figures out what the letters are. The problem with OCR is that computers can’t read text as well as humans can, so the resulting words are typo-prone.

reCAPTCHA makes humans do the work that only humans can do, read distorted but readable text. Instead of just a random arbitrary distorted word to confirm we’re human, we are given a word that computers can’t read and one word that some other human have already read. Each reCAPTCHA we do helps take another step to fully digitizing these books. You can find more information on the reCAPTCHA home page.